Seven Years Strong…

Seven years ago, in the early morning hours of Sunday, July 15th, 2012- my father, Michael- died abruptly and unexpectedly.

My dad, who was also one of my best friends- was one of the funniest people you could ever hope to meet and also one of the most generous- with his time, his energy, or money if he had it on him. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it and make you laugh while he handed it over. He had a wild, rebellious streak- and he could tell the most fascinating stories about his upbringing, his travels and the people he’d met for hours without repeating any of them. He lived a life and a half in such a short span of time.

My dad was also one of the hardest working people around- up at the crack of dawn to go to work every day and make money to pay for dance lessons, school functions, family vacations/trips, nice clothes and good food. Despite long hours- he never missed a recital, a practice, science fair or picking any one of his kids up from school or a function.

As my brothers and I got older, and started getting into the typical teenage/early twenties trouble- my dad was the voice of reason and understanding because he’d been there and had made those mistakes long before us. “If you’ve been drinking and you need a ride- you call me. Anytime of the day or night. I will come and get you.” And he did with me. More than once. And not once did he ever lecture me or yell at me for it because I had done the responsible thing. Instead, he’d stop to get me something to eat so I wouldn’t feel sick. That was the type of father he was.

When I tell people I was there when he died, their initial reaction is one of sympathy but also relief. The assumption is always the same. People knew my father had been diagnosed with stage four cancer. They knew he had undergone a serious, intricate but successful surgery to remove the cancer- and they knew he was going through chemotherapy and radiation treatments post-op as a precaution. The assumption is always that he died peacefully- surrounded by loved ones in a warm and semi-comfortable hospital bed. Maybe with a sweeping score playing as we all said our tearful goodbyes.

The assumption used to make me angry. “How DARE they,” I would think to myself. “They have no idea!” But with time and age comes wisdom and perspective- and I don’t get angry anymore because I know it’s what they *wanted* for him. They *wanted* it to be peaceful and painless and for my family to have some semblance of closure.

The reality of the situation was much more grim.

My father died from complications from chemotherapy and radiation- which had weakened his body to the point where his heart gave out. When I say I was there, what I mean is that he died on my bedroom floor after collapsing. Moments before, we’d had a brief but wit-filled exchange (as we always did) after I’d come home obscenely late from a night out with friends.

After his diagnosis- I’d opted to both come back to my family’s home and stay there to help take care of him and my mom- running errands, taking him to/from Doctor’s appointments, sitting up and watching late night TV and movies with the two of them on the couch. Quality bonding despite the fact that one of us was very, very ill.

That night- he’d been awake, alert, and wanted to know everything and how everyone was doing. He was excited that I had been out with my friends for the first time in a long time. It was the most energetic I’d seen him in days.

And then, in an instant- he was gone.

The strange thing about trauma is that we never get over it- but we find ways to process it and live with it in a way where we can function like a semi-normal version of ourselves before whatever happened to us, well- happened. The human mind, spirit and body has such a fascinating way to self-preserve itself for survival.

There are some parts to the night I cannot remember and honestly- I probably don’t want to- while other parts are as clear to me now as they were that night. My mother screaming and crying on the phone with paramedics after I’d told her to talk to them in order to keep her out of the room. My dog cowering in the corner because of the commotion. For some reason I remember how awful the bedroom lighting was. It made everything look yellow and antiquated.

I performed CPR on my dad since he wasn’t breathing and I couldn’t feel a pulse- the way I’d learned years and years earlier during a babysitting course where they had taught us as a bunch of young teenagers how to stop a kid from choking, or what to do if they have a seizure, etc. etc. I’d only used what I was taught once before when a toddler I was responsible for tried to swallow a Lego block.

She was fine, by the way.

There was a moment where my dad, having been unresponsive to my attempts, suddenly coughed up a weird black-colored fluid and I thought for a second that I’d been successful in my efforts. It was not the case. That was, from my understanding- when he actually died. The guilt and the image haunted me for years.

I didn’t realize the fluid was all over my clothes until later on at the hospital when a nurse- coming out to sit beside me in the waiting room- quietly offered me some scrubs to put on while I stared at an unfortunate-looking painting on the wall. I don’t remember if I ever answered her.

I burned the still-stained clothes weeks later.

Those memories are vivid- but I do not remember the drive to the hospital. I don’t remember calling my best friend to tell him what had happened (he does, of course.) and I don’t remember calling my boss to tell him I wouldn’t be at work the next day- although apparently it was something I did in my foggy state of mind.

I write all this not to illicit sympathy or make anyone feel uncomfortable- but to talk about how seven years has past and I am, in many ways- still traumatized. Although I no longer have daily panic attacks, dizzy spells, uncontrollable sobbing fits or punch-the-wall-bouts of rage- there are still some things that trigger a good cry out of me: A song. A movie on TV. Finding old cards or letters. Writing this- which I’ve had to stop doing more than once to shed some tears and wipe my nose.

The last thing my father got to see me accomplish before he became too ill to really go out and about was my graduating college- the first of his children to do so. He beamed with pride and had me take no less than 300 photos holding my degree alongside him.

But, seven years later- and he’s missed so much change and growth in our family. I wonder what he’d think of my new apartment, of my new neighborhood- of the friends I’m making and the work I’m doing. I wonder what he’d think of my brothers and I and the way we sit around the dinner table with my mom and how we all have such different personality traits but some that are clearly and most certainly inherited from him. I wonder what he’d think of my niece- his granddaughter- and how she acts exactly. like. my. brother did when he was that age.

And I wonder if he’d want my mom to carry on his dream of moving somewhere in the Carolinas and never having to shovel snow ever again. I’d like to think he would.

Some days I feel cheated- deprived of all the things a daughter should have with her father. He’ll never walk me down the aisle or dance with me at my wedding (if I ever take that plunge.) He’ll never come along on spontaneous road trips or try hole-in-the-wall restaurants with me anymore. He missed my turning thirty and he won’t be there to rag on me for turning forty, either.

My father will never get to see me become the woman I was meant to become- and that is the most heartbreaking realization of all.

But, as life goes on- as I move forward with the help of therapy and good friends and my tight-knit family- and time begins to heal some of those wounds- I know that the only thing I can do is live the life he wanted me to have and make it as adventurous, fun, successful and filled with as much love as he envisioned. I cannot dwell on the past- on my sadness or my anger or the “what ifs” and “what could have beens.” That is time wasted and all I have is right now, these moments- and the moments that follow.

Additionally, it’s worth repeating a lesson most of us know but sometimes need reminding of: be good to the people in your life that you love and care about. Cherish your time with them. Love them openly and unapologetically and make sure they know it and feel that love every day. We never know how much time we or the people in our lives have left here- and losing each other is inevitable. Make the most of the time you have with one another while you can.

It has been seven years and I miss my dad every single day. I would give anything to have him here- but I’ve made great strides in my recovery and in my personal/professional life- and for that I think he’d be proud. Maybe even more proud than he was when I graduated college. Prouder than 300 photos could convey.

This past Monday was rough- but it also marks seven years since I’ve moved forward from a life-shattering trauma- and I’m still here. So that’s saying something.

Love you, dad.


– Pumpkin Pie –

The “Halfway” Check-In!

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. I had a wonderful couple of days that were spent both within Boston where I hosted my 12-4 Saturday show on Indie617– but also out in the Pioneer Valley with my best friend who came to visit through yesterday afternoon. The weather held up nicely until a series of thunderstorms rolled through last night- so I made sure to take him to a couple of great outdoor locations so he could drink in the scenery and the atmosphere.

A full recap of the adventures (with photos) will be up on Wednesday!

Before that, though- early June is typically when I like to “check in” on myself and note my progress since New Year’s Eve. The official start of Summer is just around the corner, 2019 is halfway over- and now seems like just a good time as any to reassess the goals/aspirations I laid out for myself back at the very end of December. I like to take pride in myself on anything I accomplished- and push myself a little harder on the things that I haven’t yet!

I copied my 2019 Resolutions list from my “In a Nutshell: 2019” post from December 31, 2018. Let’s take a look:

Get Healthier/Get Into Better Shape: As someone who loves food and enjoys a good “veg-out” session on the couch while I binge-watch Netflix and Hulu series- this one was admittedly a little harder to get into the swing of after the start of the year. But, now that I’m living in my own place and within a community that both values and encourages wellness, staying healthy and being active- it’s been a lot easier for me to find the time and motivation to make smarter choices about what I’m eating and to exercise regularly.

And honestly- with the views I’ve found in and around the Pioneer Valley since moving here- exercising outdoors is *SO* much more enjoyable!

Stop Putting Up With Bullshit – And Command Respect: I had started the momentum on this resolution near the end of 2018 after a disastrous trip to San Diego in the Fall and and on/off/on again relationship that left me more drained than happy. I began cutting people out of my life who were detrimental to me, my emotional/mental well-being and who were holding me back from achieving my goals- and I didn’t look back.

I’m happy to report that six months later, I’ve surrounded myself with truly wonderful friends I can count on and a guy I might not always see eye to eye with- but whom I’ve built a strong and trusting friendship and connection with and who I care for very deeply. The people who had hurt me, dragged me down, or tried to take advantage of me have all but faded into obscurity and it’s a huge weight off of my shoulders.

Hit Up Some of The Places on My Bucket List: I admit that this resolution is not one I’ve particularly accomplished or have been actively working towards. It’s been placed on the back burner, what with my recent move and everything- however I *have* been able to do some traveling to places like New York and most recently- Las Vegas and San Diego.

I’ve still got another few months to take that unexpected and impromptu trip to New Orleans or Memphis- so here’s hoping I’m able to pull it off!

Get Back Into the Arts: I’ve achieved this goal with a very enthusiastic “oh hell yes!” Between my work with Indie617 and PaintBox Theatre here in the Valley- I have been fully immersed in art, theater, music, creativity and self-expression. It’s been such a beautiful and inspirational journey and I find myself wanting to create my own work more and more with each passing day!

I’m sure living in such a diverse and creative atmosphere will keep me going strong with this resolution, too!


Obviously, I still have some work to do to reach all of my goals- but I’m really happy with my progress so far. Between some of the completed/near completed resolutions and moving into a beautiful new apartment within this first half of the year- 2019 has been the year of big dreams and even bigger changes these past few months!

Additionally, I like to use the first few days of June for some serious self-care and reorganization. I scrub and dust my living space from top to bottom, make sure everything is spotless and fresh- indulge in a deeply moisturizing hair or face mask (or both if I’ve got the time!) and do some major clean-out of my email and social media inboxes.

I’ve found that with unsubscribing or blocking gratuitous e-mails from companies I had purchased something from months and months ago (and who have been contacting me non-stop ever since. Looking at you- Bath & Body Works and Victoria’s Secret!) as they show up in my inbox- I feel so much better and less anxious whenever I check my e-mail because I can get right to the important stuff I *want* to read without having to worry that it was buried amid the coupon codes, advertisements for new merchandise, etc.

Overall, June is a month of self-reflection, self-improvement, and self-care- be it revisiting goals for the year, getting organized, or simply deleting a bunch of emails to de-clutter your inbox. Whatever and however you choose to “check in’ with yourself halfway through the year is completely up to you- and now is the time to do it so you’ll have more space in your schedule for fun Summertime activities!

And now that just about does it for me today, guys. I’m off to work!

Here’s wishing us ALL a safe, stress-free and laid-back Monday. To the work week ahead!


– Ashley –

Car Accident Management 101

Ouch. 4/13/18

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

And a Happy Patriot’s Day to my fellow Massachusetts folks who have the day off from work/school today. For those of you participating in the Boston marathon- good luck! To those heading to Boylston Street to watch from the sidelines- have fun, stay warm- and be safe!

Heading down to the marathon had actually been on my itinerary for today, but unfortunately I was involved in a car accident this past Friday afternoon (the 13th! Go figure!) on my way home from work when another driver pulled from a stop sign and struck the rear, driver’s side door of my car as I was proceeding in the roadway. The impact was substantial enough to cause some pretty gnarly damages and temporary pain to my shoulder and neck. The damage remains- but my shoulder and neck are thankfully fine as I type this.

Now, I’ve been in a couple of accidents in the past- but it was usually as a passenger in someone else’s car, or the impact was so minimal that there were no damages or injuries. For example, a couple of years ago someone tapped my bumper while they were attempting to straighten their car out in a parking space behind me- and I didn’t even bother calling my insurance company because it was so insignificant.

But Friday’s accident marked the first time I’d ever been involved in a collision where I was driving my own car and there were significant dents/scratches/issues after the fact. I was fortunately able to drive my car home from the scene without issues- but my hubcap snapped. The hatch to my gas tank was pushed in and needed to be pried open with a screwdriver in order for me to fill my tank on Saturday morning. My rear, driver’s side door opens/closes a little funny. Long story short- it needs to be repaired- and claims had to be filed. It’s a lengthy, exhausting process- and one I’m all too familiar with given my job title.

So instead of cheering the marathon runners on this morning- I’ll be getting my car appraised, making arrangements to get it repaired, obtain a rental vehicle, and providing statements to the Adjusters from my own insurance company and the other driver’s carrier in the hopes of getting this resolved as quickly as possible.

Working in insurance/claims has actually been beneficial to me throughout the past few days while I made the necessary calls/contacts and gathered the appropriate evidence to present to the Adjusters- and although I had wanted to share a fun recipe this morning before I headed out for the day- I thought I’d provide some of my tips/tricks to surviving the post-accident process to those of you who may have never had to go through this very same experience (and I truly hope you’ll never have to!) or have gone through it- but may have been flustered throughout everything.

It happens fairly often- believe me!


1. Stay calm and composed: Unless you or a passenger have been seriously injured- in which case getting medical attention takes priority- going from 0 to extremely pissed off is a pretty common reaction following an accident. This is especially true if said accident wasn’t your fault- but you need to remain calm. Take a couple of deep breaths. If you can move your car somewhere safe and out of the way of traffic before you exit your vehicle and speak with the other driver/passengers, do it.

Losing your cool, flipping out on the other driver, or otherwise working yourself into a frenzy can cause you to forget to do crucial steps or gather important information like obtaining names, license plate numbers, contact info, etc. It can also work against you if police are called to the scene and they have to write down in their report/narrative that you were losing your mind at the scene.

Just keep in mind that accidents happen. People make mistakes- and the other driver is probably just as upset as you are. Even if they’re being aggressive, rude, confrontational, or throwing a fit- keep it together. I was fortunate in my accident (a strange sentence to type) in that the other driver was incredibly polite, apologetic, and eager to assist.

2. Get ALL the information. Take ALL the photos- and not just of your own damage: A common mistake I see from insureds at my job is that they don’t get important information or take photos at the scene/of the damages to both vehicles involved- which can assist an Adjuster SO much- especially if liability is being disputed by the other driver or their insurance carrier.

Get photos of everything- their registration, their license plate, their driver’s license, the damages to your own vehicle, the damages to the other vehicle, the street/location where the accident happened from different angles (just be safe!) Anything that will help paint the picture of the events leading up to, during, and following the accident when your claim gets assigned to an Adjuster. They’ll want to see points of impact on both cars, the layout of the street, etc. so they can complete an accurate and thorough analysis of the claim and better assist you.

When speaking to the other driver, be sure to get their phone number (insurance companies will want it in order to make contact with everyone involved- and having it on hand saves them the trouble of having to mail a contact letter.) If there are any witnesses- get their full names, addresses, and phone numbers in case they need to be contacted to provide statements. Get the responding Police Officer’s full name and badge number- even if he/she tells you it will be on their report. Get it anyway.

And if you’re not sure if the information is necessary or not? Write it down anyway. You never know.

3. If you’re not okay- admit it and speak up: Immediately following an accident, adrenaline usually kicks in and any potential injuries might not be noticeable right away until after the fact when you’ve had a chance to decompress and relax a bit- and only then you might notice you’re not feeling so great and want to get checked out by a Doctor. In my case, I didn’t start feeling pain until late Friday night and into Saturday morning when my left shoulder and neck- which had been jerked side to side during the impact- started to feel a little stiff and sore. It has since resolved itself with some light stretches and a couple of doses of ibuprofen.

However, if you’re in noticeable or substantial pain at the scene of the accident- or if you’re feeling too rattled to drive your vehicle to your destination safely- say something. Tell a responding officer, or a witness, or call a friend/loved one to come and help you. Do NOT ignore it and do NOT attempt to drive if you don’t think you can. Getting into a second accident right after the first is not a good look for anyone. There’s no shame in getting help if you need it.


1. Report the claim as soon as you can, and stay patient while you do: I always recommend calling in a car accident claim as soon as possible- while details are still fresh in your mind- to get them assigned accordingly and processed ASAP to cut down on unnecessary waiting time to get your vehicle repaired, medical bills paid, etc.

The sooner, the better- but be sure that you’re calm and you’ve got the time/patience to talk to the companies at length and provide as much information as possible. It can be daunting- especially knowing that you’ll have to do it more than once (reporting it to your own carrier, and then the other driver’s carrier, and so forth…) but it will ultimately save you a lot of aggravation moving forward.

Also, sidebar- but if the person taking down the information about your accident/damages doesn’t get something right (in my case, it was the location and the actual accident description)– do NOT be afraid to repeat yourself again, and again, and again if necessary- in order to make sure the facts surrounding the accident are being reported and relayed correctly.

2. Write everything down: Much like you did at the scene of the accident- documenting everything you discuss with the insurance companies is crucial, too. Who did you report the claim to? What’s your claim number? Your Adjuster’s name and telephone number? The other driver’s claim number? The other driver’s Adjuster’s information? Appraisal numbers? Contact numbers for the appraiser? Rental confirmation codes? The list goes on.

It’s a lot of information- and you’re going to have to refer to it more than once- so if you take clearly labeled and detailed notes, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor in the long haul. Keeping the claim information on hand means you don’t have to waste so much time talking to automated answering services of dodging the run around with company operators. You can be connected- and quickly- to representatives and Adjusters who will be able to pull up the claim and assist you moving forward!


1. Be patient: From experience, it’s frustrating to have someone report a claim and then call the assigned Adjuster an hour later wondering why nothing has been done for their vehicle damage/injuries. Chances are, your Adjuster is reviewing your policy, confirming your coverage, making the necessary contacts and assigning the correct appraisers/team members to work on a claim with them.

Give them a chance to familiarize themselves with your accident before you start blowing their phone/e-mail up with questions and concerns. If you still haven’t heard anything within two business days after reporting an accident- then absolutely make contact- but other than that? Chill.

2. Read each form you receive in the mail- and cooperate with any investigations: It’s standard procedure for insurance companies to send out forms and seek statements from drivers involved in accidents- especially if there’s disputes in liability or conflicting stories. As frustrating as it is- cooperate fully with all companies investigating the accident and be prompt with returning calls, completed paperwork, etc.

The more efficient and upfront you are, the better the outcome and the quicker the results. A lot of times when claim handling gets held up or delayed- it’s because one of the involved parties is slacking or being unresponsive. Don’t be that person. Be the person who is helpful and on top of things.

3. If it’s too much for you to handle- seek out some help: Your insurance company is there to help you out during stressful times like accidents and injuries- so never be afraid to reach out to your own Adjuster to ask any questions that come to mind or check in/monitor your claim status. Many companies also offer helpful resources on their websites, as well- so utilizing those can make all the difference.

And I say this as an absolute last resort- but obtaining an Attorney/Legal Representative is also an option if you’d rather have someone handle all the paperwork on your behalf (and potentially take a good chunk of any settlements you receive.) It’s entirely up to you, of course- and how much of the work you’re willing to do yourself.

4. Take some time to treat yourself/do something good for your morale: Listen, car accidents are an ordeal in themselves- and dealing with the aftermath can wear you out. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Eat a nice meal. Watch a funny movie. Get your nails done or buy a video game to keep yourself entertained.

Whatever it takes to get you feeling good, less stressed and like yourself again- go for it!

I hope those help anyone who find themselves in my current predicament down the line. Despite my schedule getting botched up as a result of this accident- I’m surprisingly calm and optimistic about the whole thing right now. Things happen, and sometimes those things aren’t exactly ideal- but thankfully no one was seriously injured and I can still drive my car to/from work right now- so it could always be worse.

I’m off to get these tasks done- but I hope everyone has a great Monday!


– Ashley –